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Bulls Fri Feb 17 2012
First off: HAPPY BIRTHDAY, MICHAEL JORDAN. If you're on the Twitters, the must-follow Andy Gray is posting Sports Illustrated's best MJ pics in honor of the legend's 49th birthday. The above video? The indelible memory from my childhood NBA education. "The year was nineteen-dickety-two, we had to use the word "dickety" because the Kaiser had stolen our word for ninety. I had just gotten home from a putt-putt party to bear witness to Michael Jordan set an all-time Finals high for points in a half." In any case, that game was the catalyst, thus cinching my love affair with the Association, that and Shawn Kemp as a Supersonic.
Now to the lecture at hand... No Derrick Rose (again) and Bulls fans are still allowed to impishly grin like Alfred E. Neuman.
Which is a very different tune from after the Chicago-Boston game from Sunday. You remember: the game where Rondo morphed into a bloodthirsty cassowary who had discovered the mystery of flight and tattooed a triple-double into CJ Watson's soul, there was much consternation around Chicago's collective water cooler.
Trepidation again rose into the atmosphere like a propane leak with news breaking late on Thursday afternoon that Derrick Rose would be sitting out the night's game. "Oh no! More Rondo sacrificing the Bulls point guards to his cassowary deity." And the fear was for naught. Rondo got his* (17, 8, 7), but the Bulls handled the Celtics at home on Charles Barkley's national TNT stage. "What, me worry?"
Not the prettiest game, but watching the game would tell you, the informed and excellent denizen of Chicago, that the Bulls (following the first quarter) had this game in hand for the most part. The first quarter? The Bulls were collectively suffering from a nasty case of "Can't Make 2-footers." NB: Joakim missed 4/5 shots from within 3 feet in the opening quarter. ["Yowza!" -Ed.] But the Bulls kept pounding away, outrebounding the Celtics old legs and holding Boston to four points (thanks to some spotty shot selection by the Cs) for a run of about six minutes through the second and third quarters, and another scoreless drought of four minutes in the fourth. "Stifling defense, wins, et cetera."
Toss in Luol Deng's 6 threes and 10 boards, add in Joakim's 16 boards (8! offensive) and 15 points, and "Baby, You got yourself a stew goin!" Meanwhile, back at the ranch, Boozer was doing some legitimate work offensively. Active, on-target shots, it was some vintage Utah Boozer last night. No offensive rebounds, but Carlos even helped himself to 15 boards.
All around, it was a nice win against a healthy (if not tired) Boston team. And what of this Boston squad? Is it as simple as the focus just not being there throughout much of the game? Mount a mini-run, get the game tied up, "Oh, Bulls want it more. Score Carlos Boozer. Good job." Which is the sort of thing you can see with veteran-heavy teams. But games like this and their loss to Detroit the night before suggest more. It's a fine line between "being able to turn the switch on" vs the hubristic notion of "Oh, we got this in May." Maybe the Celtics have slipped over to the wrong side of that sword.
Dropping one at the United Center on the back end of a back-to-back is understandable. Dropping one to the Pistons at home wherein Greg Monroe feasts on Boston's nougat-y interior? Vexing and concerning for the New Englanders. In any case, teams rise and fall and with 13 of their next 18 away from home, Boston does not appear to be on the ascent.